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One city girl, one die-hard rancher, and eight mischievous kids.
What could go wrong?
Every summer Cade Maguire looks forward to opening his Longhorn Canyon Ranch to underprivileged city kids. But this year, he’s having no luck finding a counselor for the children — until Retta Palmer walks through his door.
Flat broke after selling everything she owns to pay her father’s medical bills, Retta is thrilled to hear of an opening for a counselor position. She’s not as thrilled about the ranching part, or the sexy cowboy with beautiful blue eyes who’s her new boss.
After being left at the altar two years before by his fiance, Cade isn’t sure he can take another heartbreak. And Retta isn’t even sure she wants to stay. But the sparks between them are absolutely undeniable. And with a couple of lovable kids and two elderly folks playing matchmaker, Cade and Retta may find that the best way to heal is with each other.
“Cowboy Bold is the start of an amazing new series by an author who really knows how to hook her readers with sexy cowboys, strong women, a bunch of humor, and a stellar story. …Everything about this book is a roaring good time.”-Harlequin Junkie, Top Pick
I’m asked pretty often where I get ideas for stories. Sometimes they come from nothing more than stopping at a burger shop on a research trip.
Mr. B and I were sitting in a fast-food place waiting for my number to be called when this couple came in with a dozen children, both boys and girls, who sat down in a long booth not far from us. It was evident that they weren’t brothers and sisters and that the couple was not their parents. Several of them were talking about the day they’d had—evidently they’d been to a park—but one little guy kept his eyes in a book and didn’t talk to anyone unless they asked him a question.
When we left, a cowboy popped into my mind. He told me that he’d been bringing children from the big city to his ranch for a couple of years and was planning to do so again that year. But he was in desperate need of a bunkhouse counselor for the girls, since his previous one couldn’t do it that year.
That became the little mustard seed that grew into the Longhorn Canyon Ranch series. And that little boy with a book in his hands became a character in the story. I already had visited with Retta Palmer earlier, and she needed a job, so I simply sent her to visit with Cade Maguire, and Cowboy Bold was under way.
I have so many people to thank for helping me take that idea to the book you hold in your hands today. Huge thanks to my editor, Leah Hultenschmidt. I gave her a manuscript and she helped me bring out every emotion and detail, and I love her for that! Also to my whole Forever team—Beth, Amy, Raylan, Bob, Gina, Mary, Barbara, Estelle, Lexi, Elizabeth, Melanie, Monisha, Jodi, and everyone else who makes my books happen. I’m grateful for each and every one of you!
My agent, Erin, and I’ve had a working relationship so long that we feel like family. We’ve been together for close to twenty years and that’s longer than most Hollywood marriages. So big hugs to Erin and the whole Folio Literary Management team.
And my undying love to Mr. B. I couldn’t make it through my hectic schedule without his support. He’s a keeper for sure.
Don’t put your boots and hats away when you finish Cade and Retta’s story. Levi is about to meet a sassy lady named Claire in Cowboy Honor, which will be arriving this fall.
Happy Reading to all y’all.
Until next time,
Retta felt as if she was entering forbidden territory when she rapped on the door frame and glanced up at a carved wooden sign above the door that said BOYS.
“Come on in.” It was the same deep voice she’d heard when she called to ask about the job and then again when she Skyped with Cade Maguire.
She took a deep breath and opened the door. He was sitting on the sofa staring at a laptop on the coffee table in front of him. Without looking up, he raised his hand and motioned to her.
She quickly crossed the room and held out her hand. “I’m Retta Palmer. I’m a few minutes early for our appointment.”
He stood up, towering above her five feet eight inches, and flashed a smile as he shook her hand. “Cade Maguire.”
She’d figured that he’d be a cowboy—after all he owned a ranch—and from his picture, that he’d be close to her age. She had seen that he had dark hair, a sexy little cleft in his chin, but seeing the whole package in person was a totally different thing. There was no way that flat image had done justice to those mesmerizing blue eyes. Dammit! She’d always been a sucker for blue eyes.
He led the way from the middle of the floor to a small seating area. His wide back and biceps stretched the knit of his blue shirt. Her gaze drifted down the taper toward his waist and on farther to his butt. Those worn jeans looked made for him. He turned around and nodded toward a comfortable chair on the other side of the coffee table in front of the sofa.
She sat down and crossed one leg over the other. She should have dressed more professionally, but all of her business clothes were at least two sizes too big these days, leaving her with casual outfits.
But I could have at least worn a skirt instead of boots and jeans, she fussed at herself silently. I’m probably making a horrible impression.
“It’s goin’ to be a hot day. The weatherman is calling for high nineties,” he said.
“That’s summer in Texas.” Always make a little small talk to put the person being interviewed at ease before the real questions start. She’d used that tactic before, so she wasn’t surprised.
“So you drove down from Oklahoma?” He checked the laptop on the coffee table between them. “Waurika, right?”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Maguire.”
“Cade.” He chuckled. “No one even calls my father Mr. Maguire.”
“Then Cade it is,” she said with a smile, trying not to be distracted by his gorgeous blue eyes.
“Okay, Retta, I told you when we spoke previously about our summer program, what the job entails and a little about the ranch, so now I’d like to know more about you.”
“Sure. Fire away.”
His eyes went back to the laptop. “You’ve got a degree in business and worked for a bank until three years ago and then there’s nothing listed.”
“My father took sick, so I went home to help out.” This wasn’t her first rodeo at being interviewed or the one asking the questions either.
Don’t talk too much. Answer his questions completely and honestly, but don’t give away your whole life story. He’s only interested in the job he’s hiring you for, not anything personal. That’s the motivational speech she gave when the company sent her out to talk to college graduates looking for jobs in the banking business.
“Did he recover?” Cade asked.
“No, he lost the battle with cancer three months ago.”
Again, his eyes locked with hers and there was that flutter again. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. It took a while for me to get things settled. The ranch auction was held last week and the new owners are eager to get into the house.” She focused on that little tuft of dark chest hair showing at the top of his pearl snap shirt.
“And why do you want this job?” he asked.
“I’d love to have the opportunity to help children and I’m impressed with what you do here on the ranch for them. I’m not new to the idea of teaching leadership, since I’ve worked with people in that capacity in my previous jobs. The timing is perfect, since I only need something until midsummer.”
“You’ve worked with adults. Ever had a bit of experience actually working with kids? Liking them and working with them are two different things. These are ten- to twelve-year-old girls from the inner city who are tough as nails. What makes you think you can control them?” He kept his eyes on the computer.
“I like kids, and a little love goes a long way with tough kids. I was a Sunday school teacher for girls in that same age range in the church my dad and I attended. Not all of those girls came from perfect homes or had sweet little temperaments. I helped with the Bible school programs all three summers while I was there. I’ve served as counselor, supervisor, and sponsor for two trips to summer church camp, and twice my girls and I went to southeastern Oklahoma for short missionary trips,” she answered. “So I’d say I’ve worked with kids a few times.”
“So what did you do on those trips?” He looked up and their eyes caught in the middle of the distance separating them.
“On the first one we painted an elderly couple’s house for them. Second time we worked on a small farm, picking vegetables and fruit and selling them in a roadside fruit stand. It taught my girls to work and to help others,” she answered, amazed that her voice sounded completely normal with those blue eyes boring into hers.
“Tell me about this ranch you sold?” he asked.
“It was small, only about two hundred acres. I was born in Waurika and lived on the place until I went to college and then came back to it to help when my dad was diagnosed. We couldn’t afford to hire help so I did it all with Dad until he couldn’t do it anymore, and then I did it by myself,” she answered.
“Why didn’t you stay there?” He blinked and looked down at the computer.
“The medical bills had to be paid,” she answered honestly.
“Again, I’m sorry. Will you miss living there?”
“At times, I’m sure I will, but what I’ll miss most is the memories.” She shrugged and took a deep breath. “How many little girls will I be in charge of if you hire me?”
She waited a full thirty seconds to see if he’d ask another question before she responded. “I’m sure there will be lots of giggling and whining, and I can expect it to lean more toward whining. Like I said, I’ve dealt with girls that age so I know what I’m signing up for, Mr. Maguire. Any more questions?”
“No, but I will be honest. I ran the references you listed,” he said. “And your previous employers said that you’d be excellent in this position.”
“So am I hired?” She shot another smile his way but avoided his eyes. If she got the job she had to remember to look at the cleft in his chin, or his ears or even his mouth but to never fall into those cool blue eyes again. On second thought, though, his mouth would be dangerous too. His lips were meant for kissing.
“Let me show you the bunkhouse and if you’re still interested we’ll talk salary.” He stood, crossed the floor in a few long swaggering strides, and held the door open for her. “It’s only a few yards from here so we’ll walk.”
“I saw it as I drove down here from the ranch house. Stopped to ask exactly where to go and met a sweet lady named Mavis.” She passed close enough to him to get a whiff of the remnants of his shaving lotion. Without thinking, she drew a long breath and let it out slowly. Yep, the scent was woodsy and clean, reminding her of the fresh smell of morning when the dew was still on the ground.
It’s been way too long since you went out with a guy, her best friend Tina’s voice popped into her head.
“Amen,” she muttered.
“I’m sorry, did you say something?” Cade nodded toward the next building down from the boys’ bunkhouse. He shortened his step to keep up with her but it still only took two minutes to go from one building to the next.
“Just muttering to myself,” she said. “One of my failings.”
He stepped up on the porch and opened the door for her. She scanned the large room. No television but there was a bookcase full of age-appropriate books.
“We have television in the ranch house and they can watch movies there, but we encourage them to spend time outside in the fresh air or reading books. We want this to be a learning experience.”
“Teach them to like the smell of dirt and hard work. Sittin’ in front of a television all day doesn’t do anything but waste time,” she said softly. “That’s something that my daddy said all the time.”
“Sounds like he was a very smart man. This is the living room and the little kitchen will be for you and the girls to prepare snacks.”
“Does that mean I’m hired?” she asked.
“The job is yours if you want it. The kids arrive in three days. The quicker you can move in, the better, so you can get acquainted with the place and all of us before the children get here,” he answered.
“I can be back by midafternoon.” It might seem a little eager but she really wanted this job. It offered room and board and was tailor made for her for the next few weeks when interviews for her old job at Arlington Bank started. And besides that, the timing was perfect. She’d been vice president of the Arlington Bank and the next step on the ladder would have been president of a branch bank, but then her father took sick and she’d had to resign. If she was rehired, she’d step right back into the job without having to start at the bottom and work her way up again.
“Great!” He stuck out his hand.
She shook with him and attributed the sparks to her excitement about landing the job.
“Let’s do a quick walk-through of the rest of the place,” he said.
“I can understand the Longhorn of Longhorn Canyon Ranch, but I don’t see a canyon anywhere,” Retta said as she followed him across the space to the first bedroom.
“My great-grandparents built this place from scratch and we’ve always had Longhorn cattle on it that we use for rodeo stock, but we raise Angus cattle. My great-grandmother lived on the edge of Canyon Creek, so they combined the two when they needed a brand. I’m a diehard Texas Longhorn fan so I love the ranch’s name.”
“I won’t hold that against you,” she said seriously.
“OU?” He almost groaned.
“Boomer Sooner!” she answered with a smile. “And this year we’ll whip your butts.”
“Want to make a bet on it?”
“Bettin’ with the boss isn’t a good idea. Besides, I’ll be long gone by the second week in October.”
“Hey, now! I don’t want you to feel like I’m the boss. We work as a team when the kids arrive.”
“Well, then if I were here, I’d gladly take your money.”
“Dream on. Texas is goin’ to whip Oklahoma’s butt this year.” He motioned into the room. “Each girl has her own room. All exactly alike so no one is special.”
“That’s a smart idea,” she said, taking in the space. “Did you go to UT at Austin?” she asked as she followed him to the fifth door.
“Played for them. Helped bring home the Gold Hat in ’09.”
“And helped them give it back to Oklahoma in ’10,” she said.
“Ouch!” He grinned. “You know your football. Why would you live in Texas if you are an OU fan?”
“I went where the job took me,” she said. “But evidently, I’m as diehard Sooner as you are Longhorn.”
“I doubt it.” He chuckled. “Don’t tell me you’re against the Dallas Cowboys too?”
“No, sir. I love them, but I’ll always be a Sooners fan.”
“Live in Texas long enough and you might change your mind,” he told her.
“Honey, you’ll be old and gray before there’s even a possibility of that happening.”
The slight cleft in his chin deepened when he smiled. “Kind of sassy, aren’t you?”
“Been accused of it a few times,” she answered.
“It’ll take all of what you got to control these kids. Here’s your quarters.” He threw open the final door and stood to the side.
She expected him to show her a room like the other four but she was wrong—again. A queen-size bed took up a very small portion of the big room. Nightstands on either side, a big ten-drawer dresser, sofa and wooden rocking chair, walk-in closet, and a private bathroom with an oversize tub.
“Wow!” she whispered.
“This is the original bunkhouse. When it was built, the foreman at that time was about six and a half feet tall. He asked for a tub big enough for him to soak away the aches of the day. When we threw up walls and made this into a retreat type of bunkhouse, we left the tub. The boys’ place doesn’t have a tub, but it does have two shower stalls. It was built when the ranch outgrew this one. Nowadays the hired hands live in the surrounding towns and commute into work every day.”
If he’d shown her the tub first thing, she would have already been in her old truck and driving back across the Red River to get her things. She envisioned bubbles and bath salts and reading a thick book every single evening that she was there.
“You haven’t asked about a salary.” He leaned a shoulder against the doorjamb and quoted a figure higher than she’d expected. “And in addition to that, you get room and board, which includes three meals in the big house.”
The money was excellent. Benefits fabulous. And she got to work as a team. There were no cons—only pros.
“That sounds more than fair,” she said.
“Contract is on the computer. I’ll make a couple of adjustments and if you’ve seen enough we’ll go back down to the boys’ place and get it signed.” He crossed the floor and held the door open for her.
If something sounded too good, then there had to be something wrong somewhere, right? Thinking about it overnight wouldn’t hurt, but if she didn’t take it now, then he might change his mind about her commitment and bring in one of the other candidates. “Why did you wait so late to hire someone?” She fell into step with him going from one bunkhouse to the next.
“The same lady who’s always taken care of the girls had to back out last week. Her daughter had triplets and she had to go to Virginia to help out,” he said.
Once inside, he went straight to the computer, hit a few keys, and then whipped the screen around to her. She read through the one-page contract. Payment upon completion of the program and would be forfeited if she left before the last day. Any accidents happening during the program would be covered by the ranch insurance. Pretty basic stuff really. She hit the sign here key and it was done.
“That does it. I’ll print out a copy for you and give it to you when you return. Call me when you get back and I’ll send some hired hands to help you unload.” He rattled off a phone number and she plugged it into her phone.
He walked out with her and frowned at her truck. It had probably been bright red at one time, but it definitely showed signs of being left out in the weather instead of in a garage.
Her dark brows drew down over brown eyes. “What? Are you regretting hiring me already?”
“Why would you ask that?”
“Your expression said you were having second thoughts,” she answered. “I would love to have this job but if you’ve changed your mind…” She didn’t finish the sentence.
“You are pretty good at reading people. I’m surely not having second thoughts. I wasn’t expecting you to be driving a truck. With a résumé like yours I expected something different.”
“I told you that I’ve been a rancher for three years,” she said as she slung open the door and crawled inside the old truck. “What did you think I’d be driving?”
“Maybe a sports car,” he answered.
“My cute little yellow Camaro went the same way as the farm—to pay off my father’s medical bills, but I’m debt free and this old girl has a lot of miles left in her.” Retta patted the steering wheel.
Cade held up his palms. “Hey, I like trucks. I drive one, and if you’ll look up toward the house, you’ll see three parked out front.”
“Saw them when I drove in. They’re nice.” She fastened the seat belt and started the engine.
“Sounds like a new vehicle,” he said.
“I keep her in good runnin’ order. See you in a few hours,” she said as she drove away.
With his long strides it only took a few minutes to get to the big house located about a hundred yards away. He circled around and went in through the back door, kicked off his good boots, and shoved his feet down into a pair of scuffed-up work boots and then headed to the refrigerator for a quart jar of sweet tea to take to the field for his brother, Justin.
“Did you hire her?” Mavis took a blackberry cobbler from the stove.
A short woman with kinky curly hair that went from brown to blond, depending on how long it had been since her last visit to the beauty parlor, Mavis had bright green eyes and loved gossip.
“I did,” Cade answered. “And she’ll be joining us for supper tonight.”
Mavis lowered her chin and narrowed her eyes. “Not that I’m one to meddle, but—you better be careful, Cade Maguire. Those big brown eyes get you every time.”
Mavis had been the cook at the ranch since before Cade and Justin were born and even though she was near seventy, she swore they’d take her out of the kitchen feet first. Her husband, Skip, had already retired as ranch foreman, but Mavis said there was no way she was staying home with him twenty-four/seven.
“Don’t be fussin’ at him, woman.” Skip came through the kitchen. “He’s a grown man and knows not to mix business and pleasure. If he’s hired her, then he ain’t goin’ to get all involved with her.”
Skip was talk and lanky and favored bibbed overalls. His gray hair had been nothing but a rim around his bald head ever since Cade had known him. He might look like a gentle breeze could blow him away, but he was as strong as an ox and could do the work of three men on the ranch.
“He’s a man and she’s a woman. Business ain’t got a thing to do with what happens between two people when they…” She stopped.
“What happens? Tell me,” Cade teased.
Skip chuckled. “I’m listenin’ and since we’re both just men and don’t understand anything, we’d like some details.”
Mavis pushed a strand of hair behind her ear and narrowed her eyes. “Y’all ain’t crazy. You both know what I’m talkin’ about. Now, Cade, you take that tea to Justin and y’all get yourselves on back here by noon. And Skip Roberts, you get on back down to the boys’ bunkhouse and fix that water leak.”
“Better listen to her. She’s the one doin’ the cookin’.” Skip bent to kiss her on the forehead.
“Yes, ma’am.” Cade grinned.
“And if you can’t be careful, then be sure you got some protection in your hip pocket.” Skip chuckled again.
“I swear to God, you embarrass me every time you turn around,” Mavis snapped at her husband and then turned back to Cade. “Boy, you watch that heart of yours. It’s got a thing for brown eyes.”
“Not a single thing for you to worry about, Miz Mavis.” He stopped and bent down to hug her.
“Okay then, I’ll set another plate for supper. I hope she likes pot roast,” Mavis said.
“Me too, but she’s a devout OU fan, so one never knows,” Cade said in mock seriousness.
“Sweet Jesus.” Skip crossed himself. “An Oklahoma fan in this house. God might shoot lightning right through the roof and zap us all.”
Mavis shoved a finger up under his nose and started to say something, but Cade grabbed it and twirled her around in a swing dance movement. “You don’t worry about me. I would never get involved with someone who’s a Sooner fan.”
“You rascal, you’ve messed up my hair.” She patted at her short hair.
“You still got spring in your step. You and Skip should go with me and the boys out dancing some Saturday night,” he said.
“Did that woman’s brown eyes make you crazy? I’m too old for shenanigans like that. Lord have mercy! I’ll be seventy in the fall.”
“Don’t you lie to me. You’re not a day over fifty, and Skip can still two-step. I saw y’all at the last weddin’ we went to. Put us young folks plumb to shame.” He gave her another quick hug and headed out the back door.
“You are full of horse crap and you’re forgetting your tea,” Mavis yelled.
He came back, picked up the jar, and blew a kiss toward them on his way out that time.
But his step slowed as he thought about Mavis’s warning. She wouldn’t say Julie’s name, but that’s clearly who she meant. On the night before their wedding, he’d blown Julie a kiss when he walked off her porch at ten minutes until midnight. And the next morning she’d sent the engagement ring back with a note saying that she couldn’t go through with it. Folks said that time would heal his shattered heart, but it had already been two years and he still felt the ache.
- "Carolyn Brown makes the sun shine brighter and the tea taste sweeter. Southern comfort in a book."—Sheila Roberts, USA Today bestselling author
- "Western romance lovers are in for a treat. This wickedly saucy series is unputdownable. There's no one who creates a rancher with a heart of gold like Carolyn Brown."—RT Book Reviews on Cowboy Bold
- "Lighthearted banter, heart-tugging emotion, and a good-natured Sooner/Longhorn football rivalry make this a delightful romance and terrific launch for the new series."—Library Journal
- "Carolyn Brown writes about everyday things that happen to all of us and she does it with panache, class, empathy and humor."—Night Owl Reviews
- "Everything you could ever ask for in a cowboy romance."—The Genre Minx Book Reviews on Cowboy Bold
- On Sale
- May 29, 2018
- Page Count
- 336 pages